LA’s most famous Photography Julius Shulman’s primary residence designed by Raphael Soriano (1950)
In my main article, I talk about how shooting Los Angeles Real Estate photography is more about getting a job done than making art. This is not the case with LA Architectural Photography. Los Angeles Architectural Photographers’ mission if they choose to accept it – is taking photos that are worthy of being published in an edition of Architectural Digest, A book by Rizzoli, or displayed in an art gallery in Bergamot Station. Like navigating the queue at LAX during Thanksgiving or Christmas season, expect longer wait times and delays on architectural photoshoots. Good things take time. And so do Architectural photographers. Typical Architectural photoshoots can last 3-4 hours or longer. I have seen photographers for some architecturally significant properties do multi-day photoshoots to capture the perfect lighting conditions.
You need to call in an architectural photographer when you have a listing designed by an AIA architect or that is a Historic-Cultural Monument, or designed by one of Southern California’s architectural masters such as: Frank Lloyd Wright, Lloyd Wright, Neutra, Lautner, Craig Ellwood, Ray Kappe, Greene & Greene, Raphael Soriano, Pierre Keonig, Gehry, Rudolph Schindler, Gregory Ain, John Elgin Woolf, Edward Fickett to name some of the heavy hitters.
Architectural photographers shoot in a different way than normal real estate photographers. Sometimes I see them shoot in Black & White to emphasize the lines and shapes, light and shadows, or to callback to the house’s historical context (We only got color in photos as of the 1950s and 1960s). For Tall buildings, they may take a verticle shot. For buildings with water features, such as pools, they will use the reflections. If the House faces East, they will shoot it in the morning, if it faces west they will shoot it in the afternoon (unless they purposely want the house to be shadowed)
I asked a few Los Angeles architectural photographers “What is architectural photography?” to find out what it means to them. Here is how they responded:
I am an active Real Estate Agent in Los Angeles for the past 10 years. I have compiled this list of the Top 100 Los Angeles Real Estate Photographers so finding the right photographer to add to your roster for your next LA real estate photoshoot is a breeze!
Pictures are the #1 marketing tool for selling listings (although in the future I expect videos to supplant pictures). The trend is clear, all buyers start their search for a new home online. The most important factor for buyers when they are considering which of the listings they view online to see in person is the photos. Great photos get more showings. More showings mean more offers. More offers mean a higher sales price. When I am determining a marketing budget for a listing I never scrimp on the photographs.
Real Estate Photography is more about getting the job done than making art (Architectural Photographers will disagree with me here). Photos are used to sell listings. Most agents want the photoshoot scheduled within a few days of signing a new listing, and when a photographer comes to shoot, they want it done in 1-2 hours (real estate agents are notorious for being impatient). Top Real Estate Photographers do 2 – 3 shoots a day, 5 to 6 days a week (unless you are Jeffrey Ong, then you shoot 3x a day/7 days a week). Prices for a photo shoots range from $200-$600, and you can add a website for an extra $150. The photographer will take 20 to 30 photos on average or up to 50 for estates, and then edit them. I hope for a 1-2 day turnaround on the delivery of pictures once they are taken.
Los Angeles Real Estate Photographers offer a variety of services. The main service everyone offers is Daylight Photos. In addition to this service, they may also offer Twilight Photos, Drone, 3D, Video, Virtual Staging, Floorplans, Lifestyle Photos, and Video.
To make this list easier to use I have made Top Ten Lists for each specialty:
Description: Alex Zarour is an Entrepreneur. In the past, he owned his own insurance company but wasn’t happy doing that. He wanted to be creative. So he sold that business and bought a camera in 2012 and hasn’t looked back. Alex is a young buck and does very professional work. His Twilight Shots are some of the best. He is definitely one of my top Los Angeles real estate photographers.
Description: I have shot with Adam a few times, he is just awesome. He lives in Beverly Glen or Benedict Canyon in a cool modern house (which he has shot from every angle) this is where he goes to relax, because he is shooting 24/7. I was shooting a house with a tenant and the tenant was very upset, Adam was very professional and handled the situation calmly. He has a tri-pod technique where he raises it above his head to get a pseudo drone shot. For one shoot, Adam climbed up on the counter tops of the kitchen to get a tight angle( it was a condo). He has a really good eye for angles.
Description: I love Rani Sikolski! Rani is Israeli. He is the most friendly and bubbly person, it's hard not to get along with him! Skyphotography are the best/most ballsy drone photographers/pilots in Los Angeles handsdown/period. In addition to photos, they do great videos as well. Everybody around town uses them for at least something. Great company to have in your real estate rolladex.
Description: Val returned to Palm Springs a few years ago. He can be persuaded to come to LA for a shoot. Val doesn't advertise much, most of his business is word of mouth referrals. I have found Val to be professional and fast (1hr our less). He will try to time the shoot for when the curb shot has the best light, and when there are no cars on the street. He shoots with very little equipment, just a tripod and a flash- which is why he is speedy. I have worked with Val on several occasions and found his prices competitive and his services reliable.
Client: Tracy King, Elizabeth Marquette, Liz McDonald
Description: Joe only does Matterport 3D Tours. Up to 2,000 sqft $300, then extra $100 per 1,000 sqft. Joe's sister is a real estate agent (started the www.therentalgirl.com) and in 2015 Joe started shooting photography. He does 500 to 600 shoots a year.
Description: Greg lives in Agoura Hills, so he loves to shoot in Malibu and Topanga Canyon areas (he use to surf but he mainly just hikes with the dog nowadays), but he shoots everywhere, he is a very early riser, he has shot houses as far away as Palm Springs and San Juan Capistrano! Greg reminds me of a Real Estate Photography "Sherpa". Greg is Frugal and fast, shoots last about an hour, he usually ends up taking more pictures then you pay for because he want's to provide outstanding value to his clients. His prices are very reasonable, some of the best you can find. Greg keeps busy, shooting on average 3 homes a day 5 days a week, and half days on Sats and Suns. Greg has done some shooting for Homes and Land Magazine in the past and has been a professional photographer for 10 years. Before that he worked 20 years at big Movie Studios within their advertising department, so he has about 20 years plus working with photoshop. He shoots drone, twilight too. Greg's style is wide angle, and he is great with photoshop editing, he doesn't like close-ups, and he doesn't spend a lot of time fussing about setting up the shots. He shoots with the lights on.
Clients: Courtney + Kurt, Rob Kallick, Urban Hillside RE, Tracy Do
Description: Charmaine is #1 Photographer on the Eastside, she lives DT. Her websites and photos a great. She has expanded in recent years and has added another photographer- David Jo. Probably the best Bungalow photographer in the whole city, but she shoots everything. Her interiors are stark white which is the taste on the eastside and she is not afraid to shoot vertical shots which I like also.
Description: Started in 2017 in Austin Texas and expanded to several other states. They currently have 2 photographers in LA.
Description: HSH has been around for about 7 seven years. It was started by Pablo, and they now have three photographers. HSH does video, drones, and photos. They sell in packages- the standard package is $350, the Delux $750, and the luxury package is $1,500. They shoot M-F and Saturday, but no Sundays.
Description: Todd has been a photographer for 30 years and has a background in advertising. He has shot a lot for magazines. He started shooting real estate about 10 years ago and is very busy now, he has a 1-2 week backlog.
Description:Kyle Buckley is the photographer for The Rental Girl and has shot over 800 properties in the greater Los Angeles area. He launched Blue Octopus Media in 2017 which specializes in Professional Real Estate photography. Easy going and fun to work with, his photos are great, his turnaround time is quick and his prices are affordable.
Clients: Crosby Doe, Matt Berkley, Margot Tempereau, Nate Cole, Barry Gray, Kendyl Young.
Description: Dan has been a photographer for 30 plus years. Dan has an SUV full of equipment and he shoots with an assistant. He is methodical when he shoots and really takes his time setting up shots and getting rooms from multiple angles. Dan is an amazing twilight photographer.
Description: Cameron Carothers is an architectural photographer. He shoots a lot for magazines and commercial real estate companies. He has a very organic style.
Services: Daylight Photos, Twilight, Video?, Floorplans, 3D
Service: Daylight Photos
Description: Marc and Tiffany are a husband and wife team. They were both born and raised in Seattle and moved to LA about 15 years ago. With the last name Angeles, maybe living in LA for them was predestined to be! Marc worked for several years at Hilton and Hyland as their marketing director. About 8 years ago, Marc got tired of working a desk job, and started shooting photos for real estate. Marc and Tiffany work together, if one is shooting, then the other one is editing the photos. Their style is wide angle shots to make spaces feel bright and open feeling. They shoot pretty quick just an hour. In addition to real estate Tiffany shoots kids and Weddings. Cost of photos start at $350
Description: Roy has been a professional Photographer since 2006. Before that, he used his camera to shoot products to sell on Ebay- for a while, he was dealing in buying and selling Belt buckles. From 2006-2012 Roy shot people. He shot a lot of celebrities and red carpet events. In 2012 he switched to real estate. For pricing, Roy charges 12 cents/sqft and you get about 1 picture per 100/sqft. He can throw in a few extra pictures depending on what you need. Roy is based out of Hollywood and shoots anywhere in LA.
Clients: David Offer, Kurt Rappaport, Carl Gambinio, Ernie Carswell (Former)
Description: Lee has been a photographer for 20 years, which means he use to shoot with film! Before he picked up a camera he was a recording engineer and producer in the music industry (He’s got some interesting music stories! He has produced film music, rock and roll, reggae and pop). Lee’s wife worked in the ads department for the LA TIMES and Lee kind of stumbled into Photography because his wife needed photos for her ads. He was a staff photographer for many years at dream homes magazine. Lee is a stickler about no camera tilting which distorts pictures. He likes straight lines, and to shoot rooms wide to make them look larger. He also believes in not over processing pictures in post, which can make photos seem a little cartooney. Lee currently lives in Ventura with his family and shoots on the Westside + Valley.
Description: Darwin is actually an amazing street photographer. He is a sole practitioner, and sometimes his dad helps him out on shoots. He is very passionate about photography and has his own style – which is very close up, dark, and heavy.
Description:The Luxury Level is a relatively new real estate marketing company in the Los Angeles area but has doubled in size every year since its inception in 2017, quickly establishing themselves as one of the premier companies in the industry. Owners Jeremy Blair and Joel Danto have been shooting for the market for several years before their company started and decided to team up to create a more personal touch with their clients. Backed by innovative use of marketing technology, a steadfast drive for utmost quality, and white glove service - they are committed to elevating their clients' brand. They currently have a team of photographers, videographers, and editors servicing North Orange County through Los Angeles County all the way to Ventura County. Some of the services they provide include: photography, videography, aerial, floorplans, property websites, virtual staging and more. Photography style is clean, well lit with the use of remote flash lighting (flambiant technique), composition and framing focused. From small 300K properties all the way to 50+ million properties, they can shoot pretty much anything you need. By far, their best abilities would be shooting twilight photography and high end video productions, which are big reasons why their word of mouth in the industry is so strong.
Description: In a prior life, Pierre was a real estate agent. He was frustrated by the poor quality of real estate pictures and decided to switch to photography. He is a photographer who thinks like an agent. His style is all about natural light, he hates artificial light, so when he shoots he turns off all the lights- which might seem weird, but it gives him more control over the light. This gives his photos a very light and authentic quality. Pierre is obsessed with shooting tight and straight shots. He shoots angles, but his favorite photos are straight on shots. He doesn’t believe in shooting a hundred pictures of a property from every angle. He likes a little mystery. For him, he wants fewer shots, but all the shots to be really great. He uses a view finder to line up his shots, I’ve never seen a photographer so good at framing shots.
Description: Keith shoots Tons in the Valley. He is really great with Color.
Clients: Smith and Berg, Sally Forester Jones, Bond Street Partners, Jason Oppenheim
Description: Dan has a tremendous passion for every project that he undertakes. His strong work ethic has led to loyal relationships with real estate agents, interior designers & architects. Over a decade of experience working in the real estate industry has helped him develop an eye for presenting a home at its best.
Description:Based in Brentwood. Always been into photography. Use to shoot everything, photography is his passion. In 2007 got a call from an interior decorator to shoot a listing, started working part-time and went full time a few years later. Extra fee to shoot on the weekend- extra $150. Prefers to take bookings off his website.
Description: Description: One of the original pro real estate photographers in LA along with Planomatic. Jeff has shot over 11,000 properties and still counting! Recently, he added the additional photographers and they do a video and drone photography.He has set the standard for professional photos in Los Angeles. In addition, he has kept up with new technology, like 3D modeling.
Clients: Jonathan Sands, Sally Forester Jones, Jordan Cohen
Description: Joe is a second generation photographer who has been shooting since he was a kid. Joe grew up in Philadelphia and his father was a street photographer. They built a darkroom together in their family home’s basement to process photos. Joe went on to college and studied photography at The Brooks Institute of Photography at Santa Barbara. Joe is currently based out of Eagle Rock and shoots both residential real estate and commercial work. In his advertising work, he has worked for fortune 500 companies. Starting cost for shoot $350
Description: Jeff shoots a ton of high-end homes- 5M plus.
Clients: Peter Lorimer, Alla Furman, Santiago Arana
Clients: Aaron Kirman
Chris shoots a lot for PLG, The Agency, and Hilton and Hyland. Chris has been a photographer for 15 years. He use to work in Retail at a high-end boutique on Sunset Plaza called Club Monico (now Westtime), and he would always carry his camera around. One of his friends, who noticed his affinity for photography, suggested he become a photographer. For the first 10 years or so Chris was shooting a lot for Film Location Companies. He would do as many as 3 shoots a day, all over the city. Chris estimates he has shot upwards of 5,000 homes in last 10 years. Nowadays, Chris focuses on real estate photography and interiors. Chris has an assistant if he needs help with a shoot, for smaller shoots he sends the pictures out for editing and for big jobs he does the editing himself. He has really great twilights. For Peter Lorimer, he shoots a lot of Vignettes.
Clients: Sebastian Wolski Team, Aaron Kirman Partners
Description: Juwan has been shooting full time for Real Estate for about 2 years. He started out shooting cars 8 years ago and his love of photography developed from there. He moved out to LA and wasn't sure what he was going to do exactly, but he hoped it involved photography or making media of some sort. So in order to pay his bills he started doing real estate shoots because it was pretty straight forward to him and little bit over a year later it just took off and scaled up from there.Juwan takes a fine art approach to real estate- he uses the law of 1/3rd for composition, and his style has a distinct sharpness. He likes to contrast the colors. He is also good in post.
Description: Rancho is a San Diego company that has expanded to LA. I have seen a lot of valley agent’s use them- for the price they provide astounding quality. I expect to see more of this company around LA in future. It can be annoying to schedule because you have to do it online on their website. They only work M-F sorry no weekends.
Description: New to LA region as of 2019. They started out in Florida and are expanding. They have 3 LA photographers currently. They do Photos, Drone, and Video.
Description:Shawn was a longtime LA real estate photographer, with an esteemed clientele, about 2 years ago he moved to Nashville Tennessee and continues to shoot real estate there. Shawn comes back to LA to shoot all the time so many of his LA clientele still call on him when they get a high end listing to shoot.
Description: Everett Frenton Gidley has been an architectural photographer in Los Angeles for X years. He has shot many of the most important architectural homes in the city, including some commercial buildings. There is no Los Angeles real estate photographer in town with more experience.
Description: Michael McNamara is a very prolific photographer. He started his business as a high end photographer, but in recent years created a new brand: www.shootingla.com that focuses more on the middle of the market.
Your business not included in the Top 100 Los Angeles Real Estate Photographers? Please send an email to jamesc2 at gmail.com with your information to be added to the list!
Video is quickly becoming homebuyer’s favorite media for searching properties online. For large houses of 5,000 sqft plus- having a video gives a better sense of the relationship of space and how rooms function with one another. Video allows buyers to interact with a property in a way that is not possible with 2D still photography. They add motion, get buyers excited, and bring the property to life!
Making a quality video is quite the production. A video shoot may require a cinematographer, video editor, music composer, actors or models, cars, multiple days of shooting, and post-production graphics which makes videos a lot more expensive than photos. The average cost of Los Angeles Real Estate video production is somewhere between $4,000 – $8,000 for a 3 minutes to 5-minute video. This price tag makes video cost-prohibitive for listings under 2M. I have seen some value video companies starting to appear that can keep the budget manageable between $1,000 – $2,000 for less expensive properties.
The cost of the la real estate video can range widely. Some of the variables that determine the cost are- the size of the property, whether or not models are hired (Models day rate will be between $200-$500), luxury car rentals if needed, and if you want twilight video and drone video. The length of the video, voice-over actors, and having a custom soundtrack can also affect the price. I would not recommend the video to last longer than 5 minutes – for real estate, this is about as long as you can expect to hold people’s attention. This type of content is primarily for sharing on websites, and Social Media (Facebook, Youtube, Instagram) so viewers are looking for shorter length content.
Sky Photography literally invented the Real Estate Video tour. Was one of the first person doing drones and videos, he has had a huge influence on everyone else’s videos, the first person to use models, etc.
Los Angeles Assessor West District Office – Kind of deserted in there.
The Los Angeles Assessor’s Office keeps records of all properties in Los Angeles County for tax collecting purposes. The assessor’s records or “public records” can be used by other government agencies (Like the Building Department), for real estate appraisals, census data, and are available to the public as general information.
Did you know?
The total number of Properties in Los Angeles is approximately 2.5M parcels! These properties had an assessed valued of 1.416 Trillion in 2017. Of those total parcels, 1,870,000 (or ~75%) were single family homes.
How do I Look Up MY assessor information?
You can search any Los Angeles property’s assessor record using this link to the assessor website:
Wait… I just checked, and the assessor data is wrong- What Do I Do?
Well, if you are not selling, refinancing, or building new construction- you probably don’t have to do anything. Even if the assessor data is wrong, it is not affecting you. Most homeowners want to correct their assessor data anyway. Having incorrect assessor information can cause difficulty and delays: getting appraisals, obtaining a new loan or refinancing, lowers your property value, and open sellers to legal liability if they disclose incorrect square footage to buyers.
How is there possible legal liability?
I don’t mean to scare you, but a common reason for lawsuits in Los Angeles these days regarding real estate transactions is square footage. A popular statistic LA buyer’s use is price/sqft. If a seller tells a buyer a property has more square footage than it does, the seller might be liable for damages because they provided false information.
As a real estate agent, I always advise my Sellers to use square footage from the public records for your listings. This protects sellers from buyers claiming to be misled. But if the public records are wrong, and they significantly understate the size, unit count, bedroom or bathroom count or other characteristics of your property, it might be tempting to not want to use them.
I think my assessor data is wrong- How do I fix it?
The Data can be wrong for one of two reasons:
1) Clerical Mistake or Date Entry Error.
A clerical error is fairly easy to fix by submitting a Los Angeles Property Data Change Request to the Assessor’s office. The process takes about 30-90 days depending on the time of year, and how aggressively you follow up and is free. Some research is required.
2) Unpermitted Construction.
For unpermitted construction– the assessor records cannot be changed. The only way the assessor records can be changed is to first retroactively permit the construction which is expensive and burdensome.
To figure out which reason the assessor data is wrong requires a little bit of research. The process moves a lot faster if you do the research yourself and provide evidence with your Property Data Change Request.
Let’s get Started!
To change your assessor data I recommend starting by pulling the building permits.
You can search for building permits online on Los Angeles Department of Buildings website:
The Building permits will usually have some information about the property size (New Construction Permits, Addition Permits, Certificate of Occupancy), and changes that occurred to the property overtime regarding Bedroom/Bathroom Counts (General Remodeling Permits), Lot Size (Lots ties), unit counts (certificates of occupancy).
For Condos, the CCR’s usually have SQFT in them. You can get a copy from the HOA or a real estate agent if you don’t have a copy from when you originally bought them.
Do you have an old appraisal report? The appraiser usually measures SQFT in those reports. You can hire an appraiser or floorplan company to measure your property.
Evidence from multiple sources makes your argument stronger.
I thought my SQFT was larger than my research shows
Some SQFT is not counted by the assessor. Garages, Unfinished basements, Attics, Sheds, Unenclosed balconies or patios, Lofts, and this is the biggest one: unpermitted construction. Sorry! The assessor’s office does not recognize unpermitted construction.
The assessor uses two different conventions for measuring Houses and Condos. The Assessor office measures houses from the outside and condos from the inside. I think because it is just more practical to do so. The space between the walls can make a difference in SQFT.
I recommend to write a short letter that explains your evidence for the mistake. The Property Data Change form itself is very brief so a letter can give some context. I also recommend to include any supporting evidence you found in your research with your change request. My last tip is to submit the request 2 times, once to the Downtown Assessor Office
And your local District Office (Van Nuys, Lancaster, West District Office, South District Office, East District Office, North District Office).
Not sure who your local field office is? Call the assessor office and they can tell you if you give you’re your property address (213) 974-2111
Ok- I’ve submitted what’s the process?
Once you submit your property data change request, it will be assigned to a field supervisor. You can call both the main office and your local field office once or twice a week to check on whether or not your Change Request has been assigned to a field supervisor yet. I can tell you that the assessor gets a lot of change requests- they have a huge stack of them, and if you don’t call you will have to wait until they get to the bottom of the pile to reach yours. If you call frequently it can speed the process up, especially if you have already done your own research.
In reality, these change requests are a fairly low priority, so if it is the busy season, you will have to wait longer as other business will take priority.
If you are requesting a change in SQFT on a house, or to verify building permits, the assessor might send a field appraiser to do a site visit.
How long does it take for Public Records to change?
Sorry to say the assessor moves pretty slow. Once you get the phone call notifying you that your request has been approved it can take up to 6 months for the records to be updated. The assessor’s office, as a policy, does not issue anything in writing, such as a letter or email, that can be used as a proof that the SQFT has changed prior to the system being updated within the next 6 months.
Will correcting my assessor information raise my property tax?
The answer is Yes and No. It depends on whether you did the construction or not. If the construction was done prior to your purchase of the property, then correcting the assessor record will not affect your assessed value (It is included in the original purchase price). If you did the construction work and improved the property during the time you have owned the property- your property tax will be increased. This is not a reassessing event. Only the additional value of the construction will be added to your tax bases.
Example: Property was purchased for $500,000, held 5 years, current market value $650,000, Current assessed value $552,000 and property taxes are 1.25% or $6,900 year. Value of construction added $50,000.
A) What is the assessed value if construction was done prior to purchase? $552,000 – the assessed value stays the same.
B) What is the assessed value if construction was done after purchase? $602,000. The assessed value goes up on the cost of the construction. The difference in annual property tax is $50,000 x 1.25% = $625
C) What if the property was torn down and rebuilt? The new property would be reassessed at time of being built
If your assessed value goes up, you will get a supplemental tax bill for the year.
Floorplans are a great marketing tool, and not just for new construction buildings, they cost $250-$350 and can be in B&W or Color. I find in Los Angeles we get a lot of international buyers and buyers from out of state. Having floorplans to go along with listings marketing materials gives prospective buyers a chance to see the property in a way that is not possible with photos. Buyers can visualize a property’s space, room dimensions, and how rooms relate with one another. In this way, they can see if a property’s layout works for them before ever setting foot in the property. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen prospective buyers in escrow with their measuring tape trying to make their own floorplan from scratch to check if their furniture will fit. Why not do it for them? They like that.
For complex properties with nontraditional floorplans, like architectural properties, or hillside properties with three or more stories, sometimes floorplans can be confusing and are not much use. Keep in mind that floorplans are just estimates, so do not rely on them for determining square feet.
Floorplan drawings was founded by Anna Ellison in 2013. Anna is located in NELA but will travel pretty much anywhere in LA. She does beautiful full color floor plans, that include landscaping. She also does more traditional B&W. Costs $200
Floorplans cost starts at $130 for B&W, $160 for color, and $200 for 3D plans (pretty new feature). Rest is one of the most popular and original floorplan companies in Los Angeles. You will see their floorplans frequently in the MLS.
Ike is trained as an architect so his floorplan SQFT is very accurate. Ike lives in Los Feliz area and works a lot on the eastside for floorplans. He has recently started to experiment with color, which is $25 extra. Minimum cost is $150 for floorplan, he charges $60/1,000 sqft. Ike does about 15 floorplans a week so he is pretty booked up, you will be lucky if you can get him. I personally love his trees!
A Pocket Listings is a Real Estate Listing that is not listed for public sale on the open market. Pocket listings are not uploaded into the Multiple Listing Service (MLS).
Pocket listings can also be called: Private Sale, Off-Market listings, Quiet Listings, Hush Listings, Not in MLS, Sold Before Processing, or Whisper listings.
MLS is real estate industry lingo. The MLS is the public marketplace for real estate listings. It is controlled by a Local Board of Realtors and is an electronic database that member agents access to share listings.
Los Angeles County has several different “MLS-es” (made up that word). I am a member of the Combined Los Angeles Westside (CLAW) MLS. There is also the Southland Regional Association of Realtors (SRAR) for the Valley, and CRMLS for Orange County. It is common for surrounding regions to have reciprocity with one another- so if an agent in Los Angeles travels down to Orange County for business they can access Orange Counties MLS and vice versa.
From the MLS, listings are syndicated to the web. Those listings go to big consumer websites like Trulia, Zillow, Redfin, Movoto, Estately, realtor.com, and 1000’s of other sites- including local real estate agent’s own personal websites (like this one!).
The public has direct access to listings in the MLS, and can shop from home, whenever they want, without the help of an agent.
MLS Listings are worldwide. They reach anyone with an internet connection. According to Google, about 47% of the world uses the internet now. The ones that don’t have an internet connection, probably aren’t buying your property, unless they are on a meditation retreat in Tibet. People on the complete opposite side of the planet can see your listing once it’s in the MLS! I have received calls on my listings from all over the world- England, France, Dubai.
I’m a Seller- Do I have to list my property for sale in the MLS?
No- you do not have to list your property on the MLS. There is no law that requires a seller to sell their home publicly or even hire an agent.
The vast majority of homes are listed publicly, but for some owners, they prefer to pocket list. If you have a tenant with quite a bit of time on their lease left or a very expensive/unique property that only has a very small number of potential buyers, or you just don’t want that level of exposure from a public listing on your home you might want to consider pocket listing. Even if you add a “Do Not Disturb Occupant” rider to your For Sale Yard Sign, sure as day follows night, some nosy homebuyer will wander around your property or even knock on the door with no appointment!
How Common are Pocket Listings?
On Average, about 85% of the properties in Los Angeles sell on the open market, so the vast majority of home sales are public.
Most of the time, it is in the seller’s best interest to list their home on the open market, to get the most exposure, and the highest sales price, but there are exceptions.
Market conditions have the greatest impact on the number of pocket listing sales that occur each year. During Buyer Markets, where inventory is high and it is difficult to sell, the number of pocket listings decreases to 10% or less. During Seller’s Markets, where inventory is low and there is heavy competition among buyers, the number of pocket listings increases, as high as 30%.
I’m a Seller- Should I pocket list?
Privacy is the #1 advantage of Pocket Listing. If you don’t want your neighbors, family members, friends, tenants, boss, the media, or everyone else under the sun knowing your business and what you are up to then pocket listing might be right for you. If you are embarrassed about the condition of your home, or the situation that is causing you to sell, a pocket listing will help keep a lid on it. For celebrities, that live their lives in the limelight and headlines, sometimes pocket listing can help lower their profile.
Disadvantage- Less Exposure
Since you are exposing the listing to less potential buyers, this may translate into a lower sales price. It is difficult to get multiple offers with pocket listings which is one of the best ways to get prices over asking. On average, I find pocket listings sell for slightly less than listings in the MLS- about 5% less – sometimes as much as 10% less if rushed and in poor condition. But on the other hand, I have seen pocket listings sell for market or even more than market if the property was very desirable or unique. The fact is there is less exposure with a pocket listing- sometimes this affects the price and sometimes it doesn’t.
If you own some really expensive things, like a Rembrandt, Renoir, AND a Picasso painting, or have the hope diamond in your jewelry box- you might be nervous showing your home to John Q Public. Pocket Listings give you more control over who sees your house. You can choose to only show your home to prequalified buyers.
Not all buyers are equal. Sometimes you will encounter a highly motivated buyer that has no problem paying a big premium to get what they want. By limiting showings, you might miss this buyer. In addition, since it’s hard to get multiple offers, the sales price of pocket listings rarely goes above list.
When you pocket list, you might not get the best price from your buyer, or the highest price for your property. For properties that are unique and very hard to value- you might accidentally sell below the market value. This can happen in rapidly changing markets during the transition between down markets and real estate booms. A real estate friend of mine says, “you can never list a property too low”. I have found this to be true for public listings. Buyers will step in and bid below market listings up to the market value and beyond. But, you don’t have this same protection with a pocket listing. You as a seller must rely heavily on your real estate agent’s accurate assessment of the property’s true value.
Advantage – Less Preparation
If you want to sell your property quick, or don’t have the budget to prepare it for sale- pocket listing might be a good solution. Some sellers take months getting their home ready for sale- painting, staging, landscaping, decluttering and packing, making repairs. All of these things can add up to a large expense. If you can sell the property as it is, without having to do anything, you can save precious time and money. Pocket listings don’t have as a high of an expectation on appearances.
A lot of pocket listings are listed early before a seller is actually ready to sell. If the property sells quickly, like in a few days with a cash offer- the owner might not have a plan in place for where they are going to move next. Hopefully, you can get extra time with a leaseback if you need it. I have heard of pocket listing sellers having to rent a hotel because they sold so fast, which is a good problem to have I suppose but it can be stressful if you don’t know where to go.
Advantage- No Days on Market/ No Listing History
This is a big advantage of pocket listing. When you are listed publicly, the clock is your enemy, and it’s always ticking. Every day that goes by without an offer means you will probably sell for less money. Buyers get very suspicious of listings that have lingered on the market for several months. With a pocket listing, you don’t have to deal with questions like- have you gotten any offers yet? why hasn’t the property sold yet? Implying there is something wrong with your property. You are free to move at your own speed.
Disadvantage- Longer Sale Time
Fewer showings and less exposure, mean longer sale times. Although the number of days it takes you to sell won’t count against you, it will probably take longer. Want to jumpstart the sale process? Lower the price a little to spark some interest.
Everybody wants what they can’t have. It’s human nature. The clubby feeling surrounding pocket listings makes buyers drunk with power, and agents aren’t immune either. Who doesn’t love to feel smarter than the average bear? And why shouldn’t you? You know about a house for sale that other buyers don’t. Luxury brands have been using this tactic for years.
Disadvantage- Less Excitement if Later Listed
The top agents in the neighborhood will know about your pocket listing. When you do come on the market, there might be less of a pop- because many of the buyers in the market who are working with these agents were already exposed to your listing as a pocket.
Advantage- Lower Commission
Owners can save money on real estate commissions by pocket listing. If you list publicly, you usually have to pay 5% or 6% sales commission total. Half of that is a buyers agent commission of 2.5% or 3%. If the listing agent represents both buyer and seller, I know a lot of agents who are happy to give a commission discount- usually 4% but sometimes less. If the seller is a lawyer or part-time real estate agent or has an agent friend who will work for a minimal flat fee or drastically reduced commission- they can get away with offering a buyer’s agent a normal commission and save on the seller side fee. Any way you slice it, the seller usually saves 1% or 2% on commissions when pocket listing, which gets them a little money back that they might be giving up by not listing publicly.
Disadvantage- Dual Agency
The two most common causes for real estate lawsuits in California are disclosure and agency. If you are a dual agent, special care has to be taken that both sides are treated fairly. California allows Dual Agency, so it is legal. Real estate boards aren’t overly fond of pocket listings because they work against the spirit of cooperation that the MLS is based on. If there is a dispute later, the fact that the sale was a pocket listing may color an action in a pale light.
I’m an Agent- how do I market a pocket listing?
Pocket listings take away an agents #1 marketing tool- the MLS, so they require more work and are more difficult to sell than normal listings. What marketing you can do depends on what your seller wants and is OK with. Marketing a pocket listing is pretty similar to marketing a normal listing except no MLS more or less.
1- Ask the owner for permission to take pictures. Pictures will help you sell the thing! Consider getting a floorplan also.
2- Market the pocket listing to your Sphere of Influence. I always start by trying to sell my pocket listings to my existing clients first. Send out an email blast to your client database, and posting the pocket listing on your website/social media is where I’d start. If you write a monthly newsletter, you could also include it in there.
3- Didn’t sell it yet? Reach out to other brokers in your office, and in the community that you are friendly with. I would print out a flier of the pocket listing and stick it in every agent’s mailbox in my office. You could also go to a few other offices if your company has multiple locations. If your company has a weekly office meeting- pitch it there. If you have an email list of agents you are friendly with, email blast them. Or if you want to add the personal touch, pick up the phone and make a few phone calls.
4- There are places online you can post a listing that are not the MLS- if the seller allows you. Zillow.com is the first place I would put it online under coming soon– although you need to be a premier agent to unlock this function. Many Savvy buyers use Zillow to search for off-market coming soon listings, so you will get some internet exposure there. Craigslist is OK but has really dropped off in recent years. I have experimented with Forsalebyowner.com but found that the only people on there are hungry real estate agents looking for listings. I have posted several pockets on the site and never once got a buyer call, the only calls I received were from prospecting agents so I would avoid that one as a total waste of time.
5- Private listing groups. There are several different private listing groups for real estate agents to share pocket listings with one another. Top Agent Network (They charge a membership fee), The Pocket Listing Service, and this very popular local Pocket Listing Facebook Group, are a few examples.
6- If the seller gives you permission, install a yard sign.
7- If the seller gives you permission, hold a Pocket Listing Open House. Place your directional open house signs out on Sunday.
8- You can try to advertise the pocket listing with a print ad or Facebook ad to generate some traffic- or buy buyer leads Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, Yelp, or some other place.
I’m a Buyer or Buyer’s Agent- how do I find pocket listings?
Finding pocket listings can be a little tough because you have to do a little digging to turn them up.
You might find the article I wrote “7 different types of pocket listings” helpful background information for understanding the various reasons sellers decide to pocket list.
1- Ask Local Real Estate Agents. Here is your new favorite question- “Do you have any pocket listings?”. Real estate agents are spending big money on their marketing, and have past client’s that they have relationships with, as well as potential sellers they are working on to list. By asking them if they have any pocket listings you will find out what they have in the cooker. It is not uncommon for a neighbor to keep close tabs over a nearby listing to see what it sells for, they usually hire the agent who was the most recent to sell a home nearby if they did a good job. I see agents get pockets in the same building for condos or on the same street for houses pretty frequently.
Keep in mind when you are committed to working with a buyer’s agent, that you can get yourself into an awkward situation by asking other agents for pocket listings because some agents will only show you their pocket if you agree to work with them.
2- Ask Brandon Miller. Brandon is one of the hardest working title officers in Los Angeles and he is always posting pockets on his facebook. Title officers are on the front lines of listings because they are usually one of the first people an agent calls when they have a new listing (also true with photographers, stagers, and transaction coordinators).
3- Drive around the neighborhood. Sometimes you can catch a listing being staged, a suspicious moving truck, or a seller fixing their place up to get ready to sell. If you are feeling bold, knock on the door or walk up to the seller and ask them if they are planning on selling. Keep an eye out for a fresh for sale yard sign.
4- If you can afford new construction- it’s no secret when a property is being built and is close to being finished. Poking around at the job site, you can usually get to the agent or owner after asking a few questions from the workers. You can also try to look up in the public records the agent that sold the property last because the builder is their client.
5- Check Real Estate agent’s personal websites for their pocket listings. Here are some links to agents/Agencies that keep their website updated with their pocket listings:
Rex Real Estate is a discount brokerage- they do not offer any commission to selling agents, so real estate agents usually don’t like showing their listings. They get a decent number of listings so this is an OK place to search and none of their listings are on the MLS.
6- Send out a Buyer Need Email Blast
7- Search on Zillow Coming Soon
If you have a pocket listing or if you are looking to find one, let’s chat!
Large staging companies stage 50 or more houses at any time and over 200 houses a year. They are more expensive than medium or smaller staging companies because they have higher overhead, but offer a wider selection of furnishings, shorter wait times, and have more manpower. They do not do partial or owner-occupied stagings and tend to not be cost effective for properties with property values under $1M. One big advantage of large staging companies is their capacity- they can stage homes quickly- sometimes in just a few days, whereas smaller companies might need two weeks or more if they are busy or need to wait for a destaging to get some of their furniture back.
Staging Minium? $6,000 Condo Staging? Yes Occupied Staging? No
Meridith Baer is the Largest Staging Company in US. They have about 150 homes staged at any given time, and stage over 800 homes a year. In more recent years MB has expanded to other big city markets, like San Francisco and New York, among others. Meridith Baer has a huge 200,000 sqft warehouse in South Gate – 4100 Ardmore Ave, that houses all of their furniture. The minimum staging cost is $6,000, and it can go up to $30,000 – $50,000+ for large estates. MB stays up to date with the latest design trends. No other staging company has a larger collection of furniture. They can do any style.
Staging Services: Condo Staging? Yes Occupied Staging? No Average Staging Price?
Jeff Marshall stages 100 properties at any given time – and roughly 400 homes a year. Marshall Design Group is the second largest staging company in Los Angeles. They service all of Southern California. They are known for a transitional style that is an updated traditional with modern touches, that appeals to high-end buyers- a conservative look that is light and clean. “with staging your trying to appeal to the broadest audience, you don’t know who the buyer is going to be, and you don’t want to turn anybody off with a bold decision” – Jeff Marshall. Marshall has been buying other staging companies the past few years, so they have other brands: MDG Estates www.mdgestates.com and High End Staging www.highendstaging.com.
Staging Services: Condo Staging? Yes Occupied Staging? No Average Staging Price?
Elite Home Staging is based in Canoga Park in the Valley. They stage about 100 homes each year and this year is their 11th year in business. Like other big staging companies, they have several designers. Their style is conservative updated traditional.
Brett Baer, the son of Meredith Baer wanted to open his own company, so in 2016 he opened up Vesta Home Staging. Brett knows the staging ropes from working with his mom for many years. Vesta has thier own style, that is ultra modern and is great for contemporary architecture or even traditional homes that would like a modern twist. Vesta is quickly becoming one of the top Staging Companies in the city.
Aggie Kiss is the owner of Modiano Design. Pricing starts at $4,000. Modiano travels anywhere in LA, they can go to Palm Springs and Orange County by special request. Aggie is known for color, but in the recent year, she has transitioned to a more neutral palette. Owner-occupied staging ok, although she needs $500 deposit. Stages about 6-10 homes a month.
Sarah Chavez and Marina Mizruh are interior designers. They also do some staging but it is not their main focus. Their staging is straight out of a magazine, and great for high end homes with a distinguished pedigree. Expect to pay for quality.
Michael McCraine has a quirky, creative style with pops of color. Definitely right at home with Markets like Venice and Silverlake. The might be a few $1,000 more expensive then other staging companies, but they have a lot of depth and are very handson. If you are looking for something a little different- fictional delivers.
AO Design is an interior design firm that also does some staging. They spend a lot of time searching all over the US for unique pieces, so they definitely have some cool antiques to mix in with more traditional fare.
Taylor Miller Home Staging www.taylormillerhsd.com Terence: 323-573-3335 email@example.com Larisa: 310-291-9856 firstname.lastname@example.org
The Eastside of Los Angeles has a very different vibe then other parts of LA. The buyers tend to be younger (30s-40s), first time home buyers that are attracted by affordable prices. Home Prices start at $600,000 and averaging around $900,000 on the Eastside, with the high end properties going for $1,500,000 to $2,000,000 (except for Pasadena). These younger buyers are more daring, so staging companies on the Eastside are pushing the envelope on design with colorful fabrics and objects and very busy patterns that sometimes clash, with a dash of vintage.
Kimberly Behling is the owner. Our warehouse is based in Glendale and we serve surrounding areas including Pasadena, La Cañada Flintridge, South Pasadena, Arcadia, Altadena, Glendale, La Crescenta, San Marino and the entire San Gabriel Valley region as well as Los Angeles and Beverly Hills.
Stages anywhere in LA. Prices range $2,500 $4,000 – Lauren Ashley charges based on the number of rooms- standard Living room + Dining room + Masterbedroom $1,250 for 2 months. You can additional spaces for $400 each. They do quite a bit of condos. Started in 2016. Averages about 10 stagings a month
Staging Your Move Keeley Andries 661-877-8331 email@example.com
Keeley lives in Santa Clarita and is a morning person, up and at em at 5 AM every morning. Keeley was a real estate agent for many years representing Builders in 200 home developments- she worked very closely with Staging companies to stage the model units. After many years in real estate she got tired of the corporate world and longed to do something creative, so she made the switch to staging. Keeley has very competitive prices and can do occupied Staging.
Sellers always want to know how much their closing costs are going to be so they can figure out their net proceeds from a potential sale. The average seller closing costs in Los Angeles range from 7%-8% of the sale price as a general rule of thumb.
Some of the big advantages of real estate are tax savings, the stability of prices, appreciation in value, and you can live in it. One of the disadvantages of real estate is that it is a rather illiquid asset (can take 3-4 months on average to sell) and has a high cost to sell. Since California is heavily regulated and taxed, it is a percentage point or two higher to sell properties here than in more affordable parts of the US like the midwest (but California real estate also appreciates better which offsets the higher cost and then some).
The #1 largest closing cost for sellers is the real estate commissions. Real Estate commissions range between 5%-6% of the sale price for full-service brokerages in Los Angeles. The commission is divided into two parts, half for the listing agent, and a half for the buyer’s agent. Sometimes sellers complain why they have to pay a double commission when they sell, but they forget that they did not pay a commission when they purchased. In Los Angeles commissions are back end loaded to make it easier for buyers to buy, if the buyer agent commission was moved to the buyer side, they wouldn’t be able to offer as much on the purchase price. I say it averages out to 1 commission per transaction.
A few other noteworthy expenses are Title Insurance, Escrow Fee, and the City Transfer Tax.
Your real estate agent or Escrow Company can prepare a seller ‘net sheet’ that will accurately estimate your seller side closing costs and tell you what your net proceeds are for the listing’s price.
At closing, Escrow is required by law to prepare a HUD-1 final closing statement. This document is an accounting of all the actual closing costs. I recommend to carefully to review the closing statement prior to closing to make sure there are no mistakes.
Here is a breakdown of the typical seller closing costs:
(Optional) Home Inspection ($400) – it is becoming an increasingly popular trend in Los Angeles to have a home inspection done prior to listing. That way you as a seller you are aware of any problems that a buyer might find and can either disclose them upfront for an as is sale or repair them before you go on the market.
HOA Documents – If you are selling a condo or property that is part of an association, the seller is responsible for paying the HOA Documents. HOA Docs typically cost between $300-$500 depending on the property management companies fees, they are the one that prepares them.
Retrofit– if you bought your property or it was built in the last 5-10 years it will probably already be retrofitted, if not this will be an expense. Typically ranges between $500-$2,000 depending on what is needed.